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March 2013

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Q&A: Oracle's Bjorn Eriksson on the Synergies of Upgrading to the Cloud

Upgrade your applications and move to the cloud—at the same time? At first glance, bringing these two goals into a single project may seem daunting. However, the potential upsides—from lower costs to less downtime—are compelling.

We asked Bjorn Eriksson, director of product management and strategy, Oracle Managed Cloud Services, to share his real-world experience helping companies successfully upgrade straight to the cloud.

Q. What are the most common reasons companies decide it is time to upgrade?
A. There are many different business drivers. The companies that most urgently need to upgrade are on a version of Oracle E-Business Suite that was released in 2004. Since then, we have added more than 25 new products to the suite—such as Oracle Financials Accounting Hub, which collects financial data across all of a customer’s systems, and Oracle Endeca, which helps you understand what is going on in your business in a very visual and hands-on way—as well as thousands of large and small enhancements. In addition, there are many, many industry-specific innovations that were launched recently. Manufacturing and asset-heavy industries really received a boost.

Q. What are the most common barriers to these needed upgrades?
A. First, organizations face staff limitations. It's hard to find the experts you need, even if you have the budget. Second, it can be complex and time-consuming to maintain customizations and integrations as you move to a new version of an application. Third, upgrades require some period of downtime, which can be a major disincentive. And finally, depending on what the organization is trying to accomplish, there can be significant costs involved.

Q. Once a business is committed to an upgrade, what are the advantages of moving to the cloud at the same time?
A. There are some very powerful operational and cost efficiencies when you combine the two projects. For example, you reduce business disruption and downtime because you only have to test once instead of twice. And you gain key staffing efficiencies because you only need staff a single project management team. Finally, by applying our cloud expertise to set you up in the right way, we reduce effort and risk for this and for all future upgrades.

To give a real-world example, I'm working with a customer that planned to spend two years upgrading and moving to the cloud. We responded with a plan to get it all done in eight months—one-third the time the customer expected.

Q. How can Oracle Managed Cloud Services optimize the process of upgrading to the cloud?
A. Essentially, we remove all the traditional organizational and operational barriers to upgrades. In terms of staffing, we provide unmatched expertise. To minimize cost and complexity, we have sophisticated tools that scan for and classify customizations. In addition, we understand how best to minimize business disruption and downtime, thanks to processes for workflow analysis, database purging, and other techniques. Finally, we deliver laser-sharp focus on exactly what the customer needs without adding a lot of costly, time-consuming bells and whistles that really don't add value. We are able to do that because we work with our consulting organization to get our customers the best utility from our applications, rather than engage in extensive implementation projects.

Q. Based on your experience working with customers, what are some key tips for planning a successful upgrade to the cloud?
A. First, be clear about what you want at the end of the process. For example, you may want to keep the upgrade process itself simple, building the new version to be as similar to the old one as possible, and using the time during that project to think how to best use the new functionality you are getting. Working in parallel like that helps in several ways. The project scope becomes simpler and easier to manage; you work in parallel, which saves time; and you get a clear picture of what it takes to do any additional work, which gives you negotiating leverage. Or you may want a more transformational upgrade that involves re-engineering entire business processes. Either way, be clear upfront.

Second, make a thorough inventory of all customizations and integrations—and only migrate those that you are actually using.

Third, make sure you have the right people on your team. Just because you move to the cloud doesn't mean you can hand off all responsibility. You need someone at your end who has the right expertise to ask the right questions and guide your partner to deliver the business value you need. Also, be very clear and specific with partners and providers about roles and responsibilities, both during the transition process and after the project is complete.

Finally, work with a cloud services provider that has extensive experience with your applications. Oracle Managed Cloud Services runs more instances of Oracle applications and Oracle operating systems than any other provider in the industry. This produces enormous scale advantage, and it gives an enormous ability to capture knowledge in terms of running those environments most effectively. With Oracle Managed Cloud Services, you can leverage Oracle’s years of experience so that you’re able to better focus and direct your resources. The end result? You gain more value from your investments, more choice to deploy your business applications any way you want, and more confidence that the system will perform and scale as required.

Learn more about Oracle Managed Cloud Services.

Read more about upgrading to the cloud.

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